Senior Policy Analyst, Western Balkans and EU
Balkans Policy Research Group
Kosovo held new snap elections on 6 October this year. The record-high turnout brought change in the political landscape. Vetëvendosje Movement (LVV) of Albin Kurti won the elections with 29 out of 120 seats of the Kosovo parliament. Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) came second with 28 seats. The governing coalition of warriors lost elections. Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of Kadri Veseli came third with 24 seats. The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj earned only 13 seats. The victory of the opposition parties, VV and LDK
need still work to materialise. Elections results were certified only in late November, almost two months after the vote and the electoral system impose coalitions of large number of parties.
In public, the opposition parties until now, LVV and LDK brought hopes. Voters expect them to change governance, fight corruption, attract investments and stand up against any possible
‘controversial options” for an agreement with Serbia. Kosovo’s context offers
little room for radical improvement; it will be constrained by both the
socio-economic reality, with an inefficient, starved-for-funds state and a
dysfunctional party system, and the need to move forward in the various
international-sponsored processes. All of this, in a difficult political
Despite the generally cordial campaign that
preceded the elections, relations between key political actors remain tense;
leaders do not trust each other and basic norms of cooperation between actors
are still missing. That is especially true for the case of Albin Kurti, the
leader of Vetëvendosje, who has spent much of his time in opposition (and
before that, as an activist) attacking other parties, including his current potential
Last two years, Prime Minister Haradinaj had
tense exchanges with President Hashim Thaçi, and the President of the Assembly,
Kadri Veseli, the leader of PDK, the largest party of the coalition. At some
point, relations between them broke down to a point of refusing to talk one to
another. Vetëvendosje and LDK made a strong largely not-so-loyal opposition to
Haradinaj; should they join forces in power, they will face the same treatment
by the remnants of the PAN coalition. In particular, Haradinaj’s AAK will harshly
defend the tariffs against Serbian goods once Kurti will remove them. In
addition, PDK, which would then be the largest party in opposition, will be a
challenging partner for the new government.
Furthermore, how the new government will
interact with President Thaçi and his office remains doubtful. President Thaçi
has so far exercised a more central role in Kosovar politics than his
predecessors, due to the continuous presence of his former party in the
previous governments. However, in a government led by Vetëvendosje and LDK, his
influence will certainly diminish. In fact, given past animosities with them,
it is likely that conflict will continue, at least until Thaçi’s end of mandate
in 2021. Should the Head of State fail to build a working relationship with the
Head of Government, a number of issues will risk stalling, including Foreign
Affairs and the Dialogue with Serbia. Similarly, various appointments for
independent constitutional institutions require consensus of both and can
become a source of conflict between them. Sustained personal distaste, a shared
history of mistrust and discord, and conflicting egos will make building
constructive relations difficult, if not impossible.
If Kurti were to secure the premiership, he
ought to build some relations with both his coalition partner and the
opposition, with whom he never tried to reconcile. Any new government will have
to create a favourable climate to enact the promised reforms. In the case of
Kurti, especially, would entail making a U- turn and engaging with the
opposition from day one.
First, he has to agree with LDK on a governing
coalition and share of power; both had long engaged in talks and claimed to have
come together to a joint governing program, a structure of the government,
priority policies, dialogue with Serbia etc. Yet all broke down when they set
to negotiate posts. LDK leader wants VV to grant him the post of the country
President in 2021, after the mandate of Hashim Thaci end. For Kurti this is too
much. Even if an agreement between LVV and LDK is reached soon, they ought to
negotiate with minorities, including Serbs to vote their government, whose
position is still unknown.
Kurti chose LDK with whom have considerable differences; LDK is a conservative party that is loyal to the statehood and identity of Kosovo, and fully adhere to liberal policies of economy, governance etc. VV insists on opposite policies. For example. LDK supports full privatisation of socially owned and public enterprises, Vetëvendosje wants to put all companies under a government scheme. LDK’s trust on its potential is very low, and worry that it will be marginalised in the Kurti government or divert policies. It’s a relation that was never tired; often conflicts between them were much higher than with others, in particular when LDK leader Isa Mustafa led the government of Kosovo between 2015 and 2017.
Both, LVV and LDK oppose new compromises in the dialogue with Serbia. For Albin Kurti, dialogue with Belgrade is not a top
priority. EU and U.S. expect the new government to immediately engage in the
dialogue. The Kurti-led government will remove the 100 percent tariffs imposed
on goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia but will impose “full reciprocity” that
will not make any easier for Belgrade. Kosovo’s allies worry that new measures
can delay dialogue and if does not start soon, “the dialogue will pose for much
longer”. U.S. with two envoys, and EU
to-soon-appoint a new special envoy expect Albin Kurti to appoint a broad-based
negotiating team and together with President Hashim Thaçi to soon participate
in the high-level dialogue, i.e. upcoming Paris Summit that French President
Emanuel Macron has long aimed at doing.
LDK is more sensitive than VV toward the demands coming from
international friends of Kosovo.
In recent months Albin Kurti has attempted to
make himself a more Kosovo centric politician. Yet, LDK remains concerned and
worry that Kurti can change position toward Kosovo statehood, its symbols, constitution, territory etc. Led
by Vjosa Osmani, but not only, LDK wants to consolidate ‘Dardania’ identity of
Kosovo, established by the former leader Ibrahim Rugova. This is not one of
Many local and international actors worry that
should Albin Kurti fail to conduct or conclude the dialogue with Serbia, he may
shift to his old agenda, the laisse deep in his hear, a confederation with
Albania. It has become a practice for the leaders of Kosovo and Albania to
promote unification every time they fail at home, but all doubts intentions of
Edi Rama or Hashim Thaçi when they do so. In the case of Albin Kurti is
different; he had long promoted this policy. LDK will oppose any formal rapprochement with
Albania; it will rigidly oppose the debate for any special arrangement, a
confederation or any institutional make between two countries, that undermines
the sole sovereignty of Kosovo.
Likewise, LDK will strongly oppose new regional
initiatives, i.e. min-Schengen that recently leaders of Serbia, North Macedonia
and Albania launched. Kurti objected cautiously, largely aiming at avoiding
public disagreements with Albanian Prime minister Edi Rama. LDK will oppose
Kosovo domestic problems are enormous too.
Yet, the new government can find a much greater leeway to launch its own
initiatives on key reforms, accountability of government, functioning of the institutions,
depolitisation and effectives of highly corrupted independent agencies and
regulatory bodies, foreign policy and attracting investments. It shall
priorities strength of the institutions, fight against the informal economy and
employ competent officials.
Kurti needs to strengthen rule of law and
reforms of judiciary, increase pace on the fight against corruption and organised
crime and lobby to the EU member states to secure
long-delayed free visa travel for Kosovo citizens, no later than second
half of 2020, when Germany preside the council. Low quality Education and a
dysfunctional healthcare are in high demand better policies. Citizens expect
Vetëvendosje and LDK to soon deliver on all those ‘priorities’. Kurti needs
to show rapid change to meet the high expectations, to which he has long
contributed too. The composition of the government, domestic politics and
international developments will determine the success or failure of Albin Kurti
as leader of Kosovo.
*This article is written before the new Kosovo institutions are constituted, and anticipate that Vetëvendosje and LDK will reach an agreement to form a majority and Albin Kurti to lead the government.